By Jamie Wiggan
Votes cast July 27 in favor of hiring a new assistant manager and denying a permanent appointment to a recently-hired police officer have stirred discord among Crafton’s council and the wider public.
In both cases, dissenting councilmembers accused colleagues of playing politics and resisting transparency.
Those against hiring Douglas Sample as assistant manager claimed the deal – which wasn’t publicly advertised – was largely worked out behind closed doors.
“There’s no transparency,” said Councilmember Fred Amendola. “You’re not representing the citizens as you’re supposed to.”
The vote passed by acclaim instead of a roll call vote, with dissenting voices audible from Amendola and Councilmember Coletta Perry.
Perry said she did not necessarily disagree with the need for a new assistant manager but felt the matter had been inadequately discussed before arriving on the agenda.
“I do not recall any council decision about hiring an assistant manager, let alone a particular person,” she said. “…Why are we in such a hurry to do this in a way that has zero transparency?”
Those in favor hit back, arguing all councilmembers had been given an opportunity to meet Sample during an executive session two weeks prior, where he was interviewed for the position.
“When are we supposed to have some sort of transparent discussion before the executive session?” said President Pro-Temp Brad Crouse.
President Phillip Levasseur said the borough originally advertised for an in-house engineer but failed to attract suitable candidates. In the meantime, he said the borough’s needs evolved and so officials instead sought to fill a new assistant manager role.
“There is a clear need for professional assistance,” Levasseur said. “The manager needs help sooner rather than later given all the various projects we have put before him.”
Sample, hired at an annual salary of $62,000, previously worked for Crafton and most recently served as Ross Township’s manager. He left Ross in September 2019 citing “personal reasons.”
Crafton's solicitor, Stephen Korbel of Babst Calland, currently serves on the Ross Board of Commissioners.
The decision not to retain Officer James Pasqualino beyond his probationary period drew accusations of pushing an agenda fueled by a larger political landscape.
“You’re defunding the police,” said Amendola, a former Crafton officer.
Pasqualino began a 12-month probationary period in August 2019. As per the borough’s civil service codes, when the probation expired, Council was required either to appoint him as a permanent officer or release him.
The vote to hire Pasqualino occurred May 29, 2019 – bringing an additional officer to the department — and was then a source of council contention. Levasseur and Crouse both voted against.
The borough’s solicitor, Korbel of Babst Calland, advised the council not to discuss the details of the July 27 vote in public, referring to it as a personnel matter.
The motion passed 4-3, with members Levasseur, Crouse, Edward Alo and Anthony Saba in support; Amendola, along with Perry and Councilmember Mike Crown opposed.
Ahead of both votes, public comment was laced with frustration.
“I think that what I say here is not gonna matter,” said resident Cody Sheets. “…Because everything that’s on this agenda is gonna get voted on in the affirmative tonight because you guys already know that you have the votes in the affirmative.”
“I think that most of you are just a sinking ship of fools at this point and you’re throwing this borough into the garbage.”
The decision not to retain Pasqualino followed the departure of former public works superintendent Robert Kaczorowski, who was removed by council during the July 13 meeting.